The last two days have been spent with more of our extensive family in Israel.
On Friday, we travelled to Elad, which is close to Petach Tikva.
There was a bit of a family get together with my wife’s cousin’s family. Their daughter, who is charedi, has a very small apartment with four children. It is quite high up and there were views across to Tel Aviv in the distance.
The kids don’t speak English. I was immediately roped in to a game which is a cross between Monopoly and Snakes and Ladders. The purpose of the game was to collect all you need for Shabbat. When landing on certain squares you have to pick a card which teaches you how to do mitzvot (good deeds) and sometimes has an instruction, like skip one round.
As it would have taken me several minutes to translate, I needed an interpreter. After a while, with about five words of Hebrew and some gesturing, I was communicating adequately with a six-year-old.
Over the very pleasant lunch we played more games which we could all join in. My wife’s cousin asked us all to be a biblical character we drew from my hat. We then had to ask others if they were David HaMelech or Avraham etc. Correct guesses forged teams. Not to sure how the winner was chosen but much fun was had. The second game was a form of charades where several words associated with Judaism, written in Hebrew script, were placed in my hat again! Luck I brought my hat.
When I was asked to explain what was on the paper slips I first had to decipher the Hebrew script which was a bit of a handicap. I scored 6!
At an early stage of our visit we were formally shown where the safe room was. My wife was reading to her 4-year-old cousin twice removed from a book about rabbits burrowing into ground. She turned to my wife and said ‘They are going into the shelters’.
In the afternoon we arrived in Netanya to stay with my wife’s aunt and uncle.
Today, I went to the synagogue where there was a barmitzvah. One of the congregants was a soldier returned from Gaza. He was called up to ‘bentsch gomel’ which is a blessing you make when surviving a life-threatening experience.
At the kiddush after the service, I thought I recognised my optician from Manchester. Maybe, with a different prescription, I would have been sure. We had to leave before I could get any closer.
Hamas are threatening to fire at Tel Aviv tomorrow. We spent some time as armchair politicians discussing how to solve the Gaza conflict. Having decided genocide and ethnic-cleansing are not acceptable options, we were left without an answer.
However, I was left wondering whether Hamas supporters had the same scruples.
Yesterday, Thursday, was a day where normality was overshadowed by my expectation that rocket fire would recommence the following morning.
As I write, Friday morning, that fear has been realised with reports of rocket fire in the area in the immediate vicinity of Gaza. The Iron Dome is back to its work.
Yesterday, we returned to central Tel Aviv and visited Bialik Street. Here there are some fine old buildings and the atmosphere reminded me of Jerusalem.
Beit Bialik was the house of Israel’s national poet Haim Nachman Bialik. It is now a museum dedicated to his life and work. It is a very beautiful house both externally and internally. You can read about it here: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bialik_House
We also visited Beit Ha’Ir the former City Hall. So we learned a lot more about the first Mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff. There is little else of interest in the building. It has an imposing facade.
Outside, in the beautiful square, we saw a recently married couple and their friends posing for wedding photos. Life and love goes on. My wife wished them mazal tov.
We made our way to the beach. Not exactly heaving. It was like Brighton before the First World War.
We had dinner at the Sheraton with my son and watched the sun setting on the last day of the ceasefire.
I was rather annoyed that the credit card I had specifically got to avoid currency charges was not, apparently, accepted and I had to use a second card. The waiter was apologetic. I continued to be British and told them it was not their fault.
The taxi driver who took us home was determined to have an accident; driving in excess of the speed limit he almost rear-ended one car, just avoided a side impact with another car that pulled across him to park and had to brake hard to avoid another which pulled over leaving a few centimetre clearance.
Back home, I received a call from the manager of the restaurant. He apologised profusely for the earlier credit card incident and revealed that the first card had actually worked but did not produce a slip. In all, they had debited my cards four times! He said it would be reveresed on Sunday. We could have free coffee and cake next time we were passing by.
Sleep was hard in expectation of what the morning would bring.
Our third day in Israel and the second day of the three day ceasefire period. We decided to go into central Tel Aviv with our son to do a bit of tourism and take the opportunity for some shopping.
I thought I’d have little of any interest to write about, but in Israel, unless you spend your time hermetically sealed in a safe room, there is always a story.
Today was no exception.
I had never been to Beit Ha’Atzma’ut – Independence Hall, where Israel’s Declaration of Independence took place in 1948. So we decided to take a taxi to Rehov Rothschild and make our way there.
Outside, on the central pedestrian area, which divides this wide boulevard, stands a statue of Meir Dizengoff, the first mayor of Tel Aviv. I wondered why his statue stands here and not on Tel Aviv’s most famous street, which is named after him. I was about to find out.
Meanwhile, about that central pedestrian area. Well, it’s not just for pedestrians. You share with cyclists who pedal like car drivers drive in Israel. The best policy is to just ignore them, stick to the marked pedestrian areas, and let them cycle round you. This can be unnerving as they all seem to be participants in the Tour de France who have taken a wrong turn and are desperate to rejoin the peleton.
The central area is clearly demarcated with symbols of bicycles and people. It makes little difference to either group who, with typical Israeli anarchy, choose whichever lane best suits their immediate inclination.
Another typical Israeli touch of humour uses, for the pedestrian ‘lane’, the silhouetted symbol of a clearly orthodox Jewish man, complete with shtreiml and peyot, holding a child’s hand. That reminder of the religious element in the country appears somewhat forlorn, as female cyclists, in skimpy shorts and revealing tops, run over those same symbols in a demonstration of the secular-religious divide.
Back at Beit Ha’Atzma’ut, we enter. I see a group of four elderly people seated on the right. On the left, the desk, with a young lady behind it, and to her right, slouched in a low chair, a young man in a kippah appears to be reading from a religious text.
The young lady takes our money and explains that a ‘seniors’ group is currently in the Hall, and the next guided tour is not for some time. She will first take us into another room and play us a short film. The room which can accommodate about 100 people is completely empty. We sit near the front on hard plastic chairs. Being British, we don’t sit on the front row.
The young lady explains that this building was the house of Dizengoff, first mayor of the city, which he built on the plot of land that was allocated to him in the lottery which established the new town of Tel Aviv in 1909. Hence, his statue outside. On the death of his wife, he converted it to an art gallery in her memory.
In 1948 the building was chosen, and prepared hastily for the Declaration.
The twelve minute film begins. It tells the history of the house, the city and its role in Israel’s independence. Not expecting to be moved, we nevertheless are. My wife is weeping buckets and I wipe away a covert tear and exit back into the entrance, where the young lady informs us that the seniors are almost done. We are ushered through the glass doors and stand respectfully at the top of the small flight of stairs waiting for the guide in the hall to complete his presentation.
Almost as soon as we arrive in position the Hatikvah begins to play, Israel’s poignant national anthem. We stand to attention looking down at the scene of the birth of the State of Israel, listening to Hatikvah. It is a very emotional moment. The tears are not so covert this time.
The seniors make their way out. We smile as they pass and replace them in the now empty hall. Before us the famous portrait of Theodor Herzl, who began the modern political Zionist movement. Either side, four meter high vertical flags of Israel, just as it was in ’48.
Brass plaques sit on the desk behind which the founding fathers sat. Each plaque with the name of those who sat there on that day, and in front of the desk, a set of wooden chairs, also with the names of that day’s participants.
We move around, take photographs and imagine the scene in this place, so familar from the black and white newsreel that we have watched countless times since our youth.
As we leave, the young lady enquires where we are from. She seems surprised. This is the peak season. So many bookings have been cancelled. She thanks us for coming. We should come again in better times, we say. She places her hand on her heart in agreement.
We exit, blinking, into the heat and light of the day. It’s about 30c and humidity is high.
After some shopping and a light snack in the Dizengoff Centre, it’s time to return ‘home’.
Hailing a taxi in Israel you often wonder who you will get. There is a wide range of characters. This time our driver is one of the more garrulous types. He has little English, but engages my son in conversation in Ivrit. I listen and try to understand.
He learns we are English. This precipitates a demonstration of his skills in mimicry as he performs a cockney accent which Dick van Dyke would be proud of:
‘Ooh yeah, Ars’nal, Chelsea, don’t you know…’ moving from the East End to Kensington as Mr Bean.
I tell him that, although I am from London, we are from Manchester. Undeterred he continues:
‘Manchester United, Man City, Liverpool, ooh yeah, don’t you know’.
I attempt to correct his rather poor grasp of Northern English accents and inform him that I am a follower of Tottenham Hotspur. I make several attempts to teach him how a Londoner would pronounce it as ‘Totn’m’. He gives it a go, but is more Ossie Ardiles than Glenn Hoddle.
In exasperation, and with a hint of mischief, I teach him to say ‘Come on you Spurs’ if ever he should find an Arsenal fan sitting in the back of his taxi.
The conversation soon shifts to the conflict in Gaza. We tell him the many places where our family lives, including those close to Gaza.
He tells us that he has a farm and rides horses. He is not far from Arik Sharon’s hacienda. He is from Netivot, a frequent target of rockets. Many people from the kibbutzim around Gaza come there to shop, he says.
As distracted drivers go, he is one of the most distracted. His hands frequently leave the wheel. with expansive gestures. He weaves in and out of the heavy rush hour traffic. He seems to notice the current status of traffic lights more my divination than observation, and the distance to the car in front is calculated by an uncanny sixth sense that operates even when his head is turned to me in the back.
He informs us, with gestures, that the Scots and their national culture bemuse him. He asks the English for ‘kilt’ and ‘bagpipes’. He suggests that anyone wearing a kilt in Israel would soon have an inquisitve local lifting it to see what lies below.
From comedy often comes tragedy. I am a little concerned that, as he drives at speeds which, to a Brit, would seem a little reckless, seeing that the stationary traffic ahead is only 10 metres away and the speedometer indicates 50. Added to this, he has produced a newspaper and is opening it, resting it on the steering-wheel, at the centrefold.
There, I can see pictures of the sixty-four Israeli soldiers who lost their lives in Operation Protective Edge. Our driver points to one of the boys:
‘I know his father. I went to the funeral. Twenty years old. From Netivot. My town.’
The mood has changed. He points to another native of his city. I know his story already as the driver informs us that his wife gave birth to their son two days after he was killed.
He rants about Gaza. We should never have left. Oslo, Shmoslo. Rabin. Sharon. You cannot trust foreigners to protect Israel. They stab you in the back as soon as look at you.
I am not comfortable with his xenophobia.
In the evening my wife’s second cousin comes to visit. She tells us that in the Soroka hospital in Beersheva there were 67 births this week, the highest since 1948: exactly the same number of Israelis killed in the conflict.
As I reported in yesterday’s blog, posted this morning, I woke with the knowledge that the ceasefire was to begin at 8.00 am.
I woke some time before 8. Then I heard a boom which sounded 5-10 miles away and another more distant one. Apparently a major barrage across central Israel and the Negev. One rocket hit near Bethlehem seriously damaging a Palestinian house. Fortunately, no-one was injured.
This rather contradicts Hamas’s claim that thir rockets only target Jews. But what would the world have said if that rocket hit the Church of the Nativity?
So far, the ceasefire has held all day.
We decided to rest for most of the morning then set off for Tel Aviv. My main impression here was the number of flags hanging from buildings and flying from cars. Not huge flags, but small statements of patriotism and solidarity.
We visited the port of Tel Aviv and Hayaarkon Park where the river runs through and under a sequence of road and pedestrian bridges and widens into a park with a zoo and other facilities.
We watched people canoeing and rowing, and generally messing about in boats. In the distance the towering downtown skyline, so recently streaked with rocket trails and Iron Dome interceptions. I could not help but wonder what the people of Gaza would have made of that scene. I had thoughts of 1st and 3rd world countries butted up against each other and thought of the accusations of Apartheid. But the faces I met on my walk – black, brown, white, Asian, Oriental, Arab and Jew – gave the lie to that. What we have are two peoples living in disturbingly different worlds in the same small space.
One part of haYaarkon Park is given over to collections of black obelisks, flanking plantations of palm trees, each obelisk engraved with the names of Israelis who died in its various wars and from terror attacks.
On one, relatives of the deceased had stuck small ‘yizkor’ or annual remembrace notes attached to now dried and faded flowers, some flanked by the Israeli flag; very poignant in the early evening heat of a Tel Aviv summer rush hour.
Back ‘home’, Israel’s Channel 10 was presenting, as far as I could make out, my Hebrew being rather primitive, a balanced view of the Gaza aftermath; scenes of devastion in Gaza, interviews with Gazans, discussions in the studio, without the haranguing, sarcasm and naked partisan aggression of the British television interviewer whose default manner is to present a tone and facial expression which can only be described as revulsion, reserved exclusively for representatives of the Israeli government.
Other news stories from the UK shown today were the resignation of Baroness Warsi due to her disagreeing with her government’s policy on Gaza, David Miliband’s defence of her, and the Tricycle’s theatre’s hypocritical cancelling of its eight year hosting of the Jewish Film Festival because it is part-funded by the Israeli Embassy.
Being away from the UK certainly gives a different perspective on your own country’s news output. I feel calmer here, not being constantly bombarded by skewed news coverage of Gaza.
Over the next few days, depending on whether this war continues, I’ll be blogging my experiences here in Israel on what I see, hear, feel and discuss.
Maybe, if calm returns, I and my wife can actually have a holiday and not spend our time as close to the nearest air raid shelter as possible.
Monday 4th August.
Manchester airport was relatively quiet. I was surprised. Maybe everyone is already on holiday.
I’m not sure why but our tickets indicated we had the privilege of rapid boarding. Maybe the fact that our original flight had been cancelled, or maybe just a mistake.
We sailed through security and into the maze which is the airport duty free area, designed to force you past every bottle of booze and every perfume sampler.
A very short wait and by no means a full planeload of passengers ensured we were sitting in our seats in record time. We were delayed for an hour due to air traffic control in Greece. Not a great start.
I was very impressed by EasyJet. To help with the kids’ boredom the captain opened the cabin door and invited them to come and look at the cockpit. An orderly queue formed. Brilliant PR.
The passengers were very calm and chatty. No indication that we were flying to a war zone. We found it inexplicable that anyone would want to take children on holiday to Israel at this time. I don’t think people understand what it is like. We don’t understand. But at least we have some idea, some sense of trepidation.
Well before the usual time, the pilot informed us that due to the security situation we should return to our seats and make ready to land. The request we should sit in our allocated seat was a reminder that if the unthinkable happened, we could be identified by seat number.
As we crossed the coastline, not the usual euphoria. I looked south toward Gaza trying to imagine the unimaginable suffering and mayhem just a few miles away. But there were no signs of warfare. Just some unexpected cloud cover.
The pot-faced immigration man – and usually they remain so – even managed a smile as he asked us if we had family in Israel and where they were as we reeled of a list of cities and kibbutzim.
My wife’s cousins picked us up from the airport , which was not empty, but certainly well below its usual bustle. It had taken us no more than 15 minutes from leaving the plane and walking through an eerily quiet airport.
Signs for shelters at every turn reminded us of the reality we had just entered.
I could immediately see the strain on our cousins’ faces. As we drove out of the airport, ‘Z’ turned to me and said he had to tell me something. ‘You are immature and irresponsible to come. There is a war. Everyone is in trauma.’
A typical forthright Israeli statement. ‘So you are pleased to see us, then’ I said. ‘Look, we haven’t seen our son for 18 months. We could not know if he would be called up for reserve duty. We had to see him’. The unspoken implication was ‘and what if then something were to happen to him, and we never saw him again’. But such thoughts remain floating in the air without articulation. But they are, nevertheless, understood.
We learned of a second serious incident in Jerusalem that morning, a shooting following the fatality of a man run over by a tractor which turned over a bus.
Later we discovered the driver of the bus was an Arab who wished his fellow Arab attacker should burn in Hell.
On arriving at our cousins’ home, their son told us that yet another truce was agreed starting tomorrow, Tuesday, morning, and this time Hamas had agreed to it and it could be permanent.
We soon found out what we already knew. Our cousins were not among the 90 something percent of Israelis that supported the government’s efforts in Gaza.
‘I don’t like what they are doing to Hamas’. This was a surprise. I was too tired to discuss. They thought that the way Hamas had been treated, the blockade and the economic pressure on Gaza was similar to how Arafat had been isolated in Ramallah. They should have negotiated.
Their son believed Hamas had shown signs of a gradual realisation that they had to make compromises and forgo their fanatical adherence to a genocidal policy. ‘They can see that they have gained nothing and the way they think is that Allah is not giving them any victory here. So they rationalise that to make concessions and convince themselves that it is His will.’
I had the distinct feeling that it was they who were rationalising their own beliefs that you can negotiate with an enemy that is ideologically hell bent on your annihilation.
‘The Egyptians will open up the border. They will be able to export via El Arish and not have to rely on Israel for their economic welfare. Fatah will come and supervise the crossing. Fatah have been doing a lot to stop terrorism in the Est Bank. But a 3rd Intifada is still possible .’
‘Gaza is like a prison. They need to be able to breathe’.
I write this Tuesday morning. It is 8.00 am. There is supposed to be a truce. I just heard my first explosion, I think. Some way off. No sirens. Dogs barked. Was that a second even further off?
Difficult one, isn’t it John? Tony Blair was wrong on Iraq, he says, so Ed must be right on Syria.
Yet, I have not found that he has ever written about war crimes in Syria or anywhere else. Why is that?
A nation which blasted a hospital, shelled and killed children from a gunboat as they played football on the beach and was responsible for 1,000 deaths, at least 165 of them children, in just two weeks.
The death of those boys is horrifying.
There are no excuses.
Accidents happen in war – I know that’s easy to say when innocent life is lost. Yet, those boys were playing near an area where Hamas had been firing at the Israelis. What parent would allow his kids to be playing in a war zone in an area where Hamas were known to have been located. In those circumstances tragedy can happen.
Is Prescott suggesting it was deliberate? Did the British never kill children in Afghanistan or Iraq? Does John know that 160 children died building Hamas’s terror tunnels by Hamas’s own admission. Does he care about that deliberate abuse of the children? Does he worry about the hundreds of kids, even babies, dressed in Hamas combat uniforms, toting weapons? Did he see the video of a father showing a kid how to fire a rocket launcher on a beach just like the one the four boys were killed on? What does John have to say about that?
Shelling a hospital? Which hospital is he talking about? Hamas fire from hospitals, store weapons in hospitals, conduct their operations from hospitals. All war crimes. Did John hear the recording of a phone call to someone associated with the Wafa hospital asking time and again if there were any patients in that hospital because Israel wanted to return fire coming from that building but, under international law, could not do so unless the hospital were evacuated completely? When that confirmation was given, the building was attacked. Not before. Does John even wonder why they would do that? Does he know it was being used as a command centre?
Gaza lost a hospital because it lost its protected status when Hamas chose to use it to fire at its enemy.
The Shifa hospital was also struck. Israeli images showed that 4 rockets had been fired from behind the hospital; one was intercepted over Ashkelon, one landed on or near the hospital, one fell out to sea and one also fell short in northern Gaza. In fact, 10% of all rockets fired from Gaza fall short. We do not know what damage they do or who they kill because Hamas are quick to clear up their own mess and we now know that thanks to Italian reporter Gabriele Barbati:
Let’s just read that again. ‘Out of Gaza far from Hamas retaliation. In other words, Hamas are intimidating journos in Gaza and hiding their crimes and the deaths they themselves cause. Yet, people like John Prescott are all too willing to attribute every death, every explosion to Israel, as if the other side wasn’t firing at all.
Surely it would be branded a pariah state, condemned by the United Nations, the US and the UK. The calls for regime change would be deafening.
An outrageous and calumnious statement full of moral equivalence and moral bankruptcy.
‘Regime change’? Is he suggesting Israel is a dictatorship like Iraq? The only democratic country in the Middle East, with a world-renowned independent judiciary, freedom of the press, full rights for all its citizens, freedom of religion? Is he serious?
Israel, a pariah state for defending itself against an Islamo-fascist murderous regime that deliberately uses its own people as political cannon fodder? How dare he suggest Israel can be a pariah state and not Iran or Syria or any number of oppressive regimes funding murder, intolerance, oppression of women and gays?
Israel’s hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu trots out the same excuses. Hamas “militants” in Gaza fired their rockets first. Israel has a right to defend itself. It needs to protect its citizens.
Excuses? Here’s a man who is not keen on a swift retaliation against an aggressor? Think again.
Err.. that was just a little egg, John, not 2000 rockets with high-explosives. And these are ‘excuses’?
And he’s right on all three counts – but as always with Israel this is not the full story. The military action supposedly targeting Hamas is so brutally disproportionate and so grossly indiscriminate that it makes it impossible not to view Israel’s actions as war crimes.
Does it? Who says? That’s opinion. Accusing anyone or any state of war crimes is a serious accusation. You need evidence, legal opinions, full investigations and, in Israel’s case, a ready kangaroo court to jump to conclusions. John needs to look up the laws of proportionality. He also needs to understand that this is asymmetric warfare with an enemy that fires indiscriminately at civilians (war crime) from urban areas (war crime) and then hides underground.
Indiscriminate. 1100 deaths, at least 40% combatants, in over 2000 separate attacks. That doesn’t sound indiscriminate. Warning people and evacuating them (where can they go!? You’d rather they die?) is not indiscriminate. Making phone calls, dropping leaflets is not indiscriminate. What is indiscriminate are the Hamas rockets, especially those dozens that fall short and kill their own people. But even that is a victory because journalists are not allowed to film it so they can blame Israel, and everyone complies nicely – or else!
When you are fighting an enemy that simply wants to murder you and your children, says so repeatedly, and proves its intentions with bombs, mortars, suicide attacks, missiles – what would you do to protect yourself and your family and how would you fight? Just think about it. Are you a military expert? Do you understand how Hamas operates? Really? Do you know that it actually wants people to die so that YOU are shocked because YOU have moral scruples and human empathy, but THEY do not.
THEY intimidate journalists, murder collaborators and drag them through the street; they kill people who simply protest against them. They are evil monsters. YOU try dealing with them without harming a lot of innocents.
Those who live in Gaza are kept like prisoners behind walls and fences, unable to escape the bombings, and an Israeli economic blockade has forced Palestinians into poverty.
Well, Egypt frequently closes its Rafah crossing and has a border with Gaza where not a lot gets through. Why don’t you mention that. On the other hand Israel does the following:
Israel provides, directly or indirectly, all Gaza’s electricity – and Gaza does not pay for it.
Thousands of Gazans are treating free in Israeli hospitals.
In fact, there is no siege. But there is a maritime blockade because Iran and others send the rockets and weaponry Hamas uses, and would send much more if ships were allowed to dock unchallenged. Can you imagine what they would send? There is a relatively small list of restricted goods which can be used for building Hamas terror infrastructure. This does not include any food items.
Meanwhile, Israel has allowed in, under international pressure, the very concrete used to produce terror tunnels.
Israel’s Iron Dome defence system easily intercepts missiles launched from Gaza. Three Israeli citizens have died from these primitive rockets, with 32 soldiers killed fighting Hamas.
This is the usual argument of a Hamas apologist. They are primitive. Really? Grad and Fajr rockets are primitive? So primitive they can close an airport? And the ‘home-made’ ones may be unsophisticated, but they still can kill. Is John saying that Israel’s actions would be justified if more Israelis were killed? Is Israel to blame that it defends its citizens whilst there are no bomb shelters in Gaza, but an extensive network of tunnels used to murder Israelis, not to protect Gazans.
Britain just allowed the Luftwaffe to bomb it, to send V1’s and V2’s without response, did it John? Does Dresden ring any bells?
Compare that to the toll in Gaza. Of the 1,000-plus to die, more than 80 per cent were civilians, mostly women and children.
See above for the ‘fair-play’ idea of warfare. In war you want your people to live, unless you are Hamas. As for the lie about ‘mostly women and children’ no-one has managed to find a dead terrorist yet. But Al Jazeera has. Look at this from Elder of Ziyon. It demonstrates that the demographic of deaths clearly indicates that the claim most are civilians is not just false but an utter distortion. And bear in mind that Hamas uses suicide bombers as young as 14.
Israel brands them terrorists but it is acting as judge, jury and executioner in the concentration camp that is Gaza
Wow, John. No terrorists in Gaza then. But using the term ‘Concentration Camp’, a clear reference to the Holocaust is beneath him. Yet it is a common image used by ‘critics” of Israel who want a genocidal, pathological, fascist regime to have free access to Israel – and Egypt – import what it chooses and to bring death and destruction to Israel.
Well, Jews actually are well aware of what a concentration camp or a death-camp is and we don’t need lessons from Prezza. Because if he has his way and allows the harmless Hamas regime with its fireworks free rein, there really would be concentration camps, and it would be Israeli Jews that would be in them. Prescott’s apologia for a terror organisation is disgusting.
And Israel flouts international law by continuing to build illegal Jewish settlements. Why? Because it knows it can get away with it.
What has that got to do with Gaza? it’s a whole different question. Hamas is not about settlements or blockades, it’s about genocide of the Jewish people – read their charter John.
What happened to the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis is appalling. But you would think those atrocities would give Israelis a unique sense of perspective and empathy with the victims of a ghetto.
I’m puking my guts that John would use this well-worn and outrageous comparison between Israel’s actions and the those of the Nazis. This is actually antisemitic by the definition approved by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) :
‘Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.‘
I don’t believe he is antisemitic, but this is shameful and ignorant.
Hamas is wrong to continue its rocket attacks and must recognise Israel’s right to exist.
That’s the problem, John. They never will and it’s that little factlet on which every argument against Israel’s actions ultimately fail.
But as Channel 4’s Jon Snow said this week: “If you strangle a people, deny them supply for years, extreme reaction is inevitable.
Firstly, they are ‘strangled’ due to their own actions and those of their government. They have adequate supplies. Did you ever see a starving person on all the videos in Gaza? And they seem to have plenty of supplies of guns and mortars and anti-tank rounds and thousands of missiles. And when they do get building materials, they build tunnels. Hardly Israel’s fault.
‘Extreme reaction is inevitable’. NO IT IS NOT. The extreme reaction was Hamas turning Gaza into an armed camp after Israel abandoned the territory in 2005. There were no blockades or sieges then. It was Hamas’s firing of rockets and using Gaza as a proxy base for Iran to attack Israel that led to subsequent events and wars. FACT.
Is it not truly ‘disproportionate’ to want to exterminate every Jew with missiles and guns? The usual causal inversion and moral blindness is alive and well. Someone threw an egg at Prezza and he tried to flatten him. He didn’t try to flatten him first, and then the guy threw the egg. But in the world of Israel-bashing, the right hook came first, and then the egg.
This is the fundamental conflation of two sets of circumstances: sympathy for the plight of Palestinians, especially in Gaza, and the fact that Hamas is governing them.
No one with an ounce of humanity could feel anything but horror at what is happening and what has happened before. It’s heart-breaking. But it is the responsibility for that plight that is the issue, and the responsibility for the necessity for Israel to protect itself and bring quiet and security to its citizens that is always ignored. Oh yes, politicians and Hamas terror apologists always add that qualifier to show they are being ‘fair’ to Israel, but they expect them to do so with hands tied behind their back.
Nevertheless, there is always justification in questioning the military tactics of Israel. Israelis do it. Frequently. They demonstrate against it. Gazans do not have that privilege.
It’s very easy to empathise with the people of Gaza. It’s very easy to see Israel as the bad guy and not the terrorists because, not only do they physically hide behind their population, they give YOU an excuse to ignore and hide their crimes because YOU are too busy being morally outraged by what you see and hear and are fed, by proxy, by Hamas itself.
The question remains: what would you do and how would you do it? And don’t say ‘negotiate’ because Hamas will not. Don’t say ‘lift the blockade’ because that is just an excuse and a ploy.
It’s very simple. Get rid of Hamas and the problem goes away. Stop hating Jews and the problem goes away. Stop firing rockets and trying to kill and kidnap, the problem goes away.
Shame is, a lot of people believe exactly what Prezza believes. But not the readers of this opinion piece though, according to the vote.
** Latest – vote has now swung in favour. I guess it was too good to be true.
I was recently impressed by this article by Haim Gvirtzman on the Times of Israel website.
Gvirtzman is a professor of hydrology at the Institute of Earth Sciences at the Hebrew University and a member of the Israel Water Authority Council. He is also an advisor of the Israel-PA Joint Water Committee.
The article is titled “The truth behind the Palestinian water libels’ and shows how water is being used as a weapon by the Palestinian Authority to ‘besmirch’ Israel’s name. And it does this at the expense of its own people using tactics cleverly intended to present Israel to an easily believing world as the perpetrator of water injustice, a profligate over-user of scant resources.
Consequently, Israel is widely seen as using water to deny Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza a precious resource whilst ‘settlers’ use it to water gardens and fill swimming pools.
Thus, water is just another way the PA manipulates world opinion with lies and deliberate policies of denying resources to its own people in order to promote Machiavellian political attacks against Israel.
I urge you to read the entire article but here are some highlights:
The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz has asserted that:
the amount of water available to the average Israeli unfairly overwhelms the amount of water available to the average Palestinian.
Under the Oslo Accords the Palestinians have the right to draw 70 million cubic meters from the Eastern Mountain Aquifer. But they do not use that resource fully having only drilled about one third of the 40 sites identified even though there have been numerous offers from the international community to assist with drilling.
If they were to do so the water shortage in the Hebron hills would be averted.
Instead, there is a deliberate policy to drill the Western Aquifer which provides water to Israel. This appears to be done as a political statement of entitlement rather than to solve a problem for the people the PA is supposed to represent.
There is a completely ludicrous absence of water leakage maintenance costing 33% of water taken.
They will not build water treatment plants despite this being a stipulation of Oslo. Result is that raw sewage flows into rivers and who gets the blame? Israel, of course. This is gross negligence as it spreads disease and is easily avoidable.
Other negligent actions include failure to irrigate properly, refusal to build desalination plants and generally refuse most help from outside. In other words, they choose to place their people in danger and in squalid conditions do they can point a finger of accusation against Israel.
Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority’s deleterious policies – as evidenced in the six facts listed above – are a function of the Palestinian water war against Israel. There is no real Palestinian desire to solve water problems; they prefer to perpetuate the water problems in order to besmirch the State of Israel. They view water as a tool with which to bash Israel.
The warlike strategy adopted by the Palestinian Authority regarding water explains several additional realities.
In addition, the PA do not charge people for water usage there is virtually no meterage, there is illegal drilling.
The sum total of the situation ….. is that the Palestinian Authority is using water as a weapon against the State of Israel. It is more interested in reducing the amount of water available to Israel, polluting natural reservoirs, harming Israeli farmers, and sullying Israel’s reputation around the world than truly solving water problems for the Palestinian people. The Palestinians are not interested in practical solutions to address shortages; rather, they seek to perpetuate the shortages, and to blame the State of Israel.
Unfortunately, President Schulz’s Knesset address, with its seemingly-straightforward but baseless accusations against Israel, suggests that the PA is succeeding in this effort to befuddle international observers and besmirch Israel.
…… it is worthwhile to consider a broader perspective on the water situation in the Middle East. The Palestinians live in the shadow of the State of Israel, a world superpower in terms of water technologies. Consequently, the Palestinians enjoy a relative Garden of Eden. Only in Israel, in the West Bank, and in Gulf States does sufficient, safe, drinkable tap water exist in 96 percent of households. Residents in almost every other country in the region suffer from terrible water shortages.
In Amman, the Jordanian capital, water is supplied to private homes just once every two weeks. In Syria, agricultural fields in the Euphrates Valley are drying up due to the upstream diversion of water by the Turks. In recent years (before the “Arab Spring” began), about three million farmers migrated from the Euphrates Valley to the outskirts of Damascus because their lands had dried up. In Damascus, too, the water running in the river beds, which used for drinking, is mixed with sewage. In Iraq, agricultural fields are drying up because waters upstream on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers are being diverted by the Turks. There too, millions of farmers lost their lands. In Egypt, enormous amounts of water are lost due to flood irrigation. The Nile provides 30 times more water than Israel’s annual usage and Egypt’s population is just 10 times greater than Israel. Therefore, we would expect to see a water surplus. Nevertheless, Egypt suffers from severe hunger and thirst due to severe wastage of water.
So the next time someone tries to persuade you that it is Israel who is oppressing the Palestinians using water as a means of that oppression, be forearmed with the contents of the article by professor Gvirtzman to rebut their lies.
The PA puts an albatross round the necks of its own people.
Yasser Arafat defied the Christian tradition in Bethlehem, which had been respected and upheld under Israeli authority, by appointing a Muslim governor and engineered a Muslim takeover of the city council. He then put his stamp on this town by converting the Greek Orthodox monastery, next to the Church of the Nativity, into his official Bethlehem residence.
At great risk to his life, Pastor Naim Khoury, of the Bethlehem Baptists Church, exposed the developing threats to Christians within the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority. “People are always telling Christians to convert to Islam.”
His ministry is based on love and non-violence. He is also a strong advocate for Zionism based on God’s land covenant with Israel through Abraham.
Because of his views, his church has been bombed fourteen times, and he has been shot three times. He has been threatened by the Palestinian Authority to close the doors of his church which they consider as “illegitimate.”
This brave Christian priest needs and deserves the active support of church leaders worldwide. Instead, they boycott him and pick on Israel for their wrath, ignoring the human rights crimes of the Palestinian leadership whom they openly support. How twisted is that?
Elias Freij, the Christian mayor of Bethlehem at the time of the Oslo Accords in 1993, warned Israeli Prime Minister, Yizhak Rabin, to maintain control over his town. “Bethlehem will become a town of churches devoid of Christians if you transfer control to the Palestinian Authority.”
Israel caved in to international pressure, handed over Bethlehem to the Palestinian Authority and, for the middle class Christian residents, their lives became threatened, and the mayor’s warning became the current Christian nightmare.
The St. James’s Church Christmas charade failed to mention the fear that pervades the shrinking Christian population. The fear of attack by Muslim Palestinians is personified by Joseph Canawati whose sister, her husband, and three children have fled to America.
“I want to leave but nobody will buy my business. I feel trapped. We are isolated,” he complained.
But the Piccadilly church leaders turn a deaf ear to his plea, or to the fear of death at the hands of non-Christian Palestinians in Bethlehem, such as that felt by Jeriez Moussa Amaro whose two sisters, Rada aged 24 and Dunya aged 18, were gunned down by Palestinian Muslims in their own home. Their crime was to be young, attractive, and wear Western clothes and no veil.
Sami Qumsieh, the general manager of “The Nativity,” the only Christian television station in Bethlehem, has received death threats and visits from armed gunmen. He is now ready to leave.
“As Christians, we have no future here.”
How sad it is that this church, the British Methodist Church, and many other Christian leaders are blindsided in their pursuit of a perceived Jewish enemy that they fail to come to the rescue, or campaign for, their co-religionists, persecuted by those who they actively and expensively support.
It is one of a series where the interviewer asks Israelis, and even Palestinians, questions that are frequently asked of Israel, and usually in a negative way.
This video deals with the question: Minorities: Do you feel discrimination in Israel?
It’s very revealing. The interviewer asks Ethiopians, Druze, a ‘Messianic’ Jew, a Japanese, an Indian and others.
Listen carefully to their responses. Many have gripes. They are ISRAELIS! What do you expect. But the impression I have is that there is racism, discrimination, suspicion and a lot of bureaucracy.
Er, sound like any country you know? Maybe the one you are living in right now.
The overwhelming impression I had was from so many people of so many backgrounds that faced no day-to-day discrimination, racism or abuse. This sounded like a country that was unique in the Middle East, maybe in the whole of Asia. A country considerably less racist than many European countries.